Waymo Under Investigation for Driverless Car Crashes and Traffic Violations

It seems these Google-backed driverless taxis have Waymo problems than we’ve been led to believe.

byJames Gilboy|
A Waymo Jaguar I-Pace
Kew News Network via @gabrielpabon on Instagram


Cruise's pedestrian-dragging scandal last fall left Google-backed Waymo with the cleanest image in the driverless tech space. That didn't last long though, because Waymo's image began to suffer too, in part from one of the funniest crashes you'll ever read about. Now, Waymo is coming under federal scrutiny as the NHTSA probes the firm over the safety of its driving tech following a string of collisions and traffic violations.

The investigation was opened Monday, May 13 by the NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigation in response to a string of 22 incidents involving Waymo AVs operating with their automated driving systems active. 17 of them are crashes involving stationary or near-stationary objects and vehicles, while noteworthy traffic violations account for the rest. Specifically, rogue Waymo AVs have reportedly driven into lanes with oncoming traffic, into construction zones, or made other mistakes such as reversing in one-way areas.

A Waymo-operated Jaguar I-Pace. Waymo

The NHTSA's investigation is at the stage of a preliminary evaluation, which seeks to establish whether Waymo's automated driving systems have a problem. If it's found to, then the investigation will be escalated to an engineering evaluation, which is exactly what it sounds like. From there, the NHTSA would determine whether a recall is in order, and what it could look like on Waymo's end.

It's possible Waymo could handle this situation like Cruise did its down debacle, withdrawing its driverless vehicles from the road temporarily while reprogramming its software to prevent repeats that'd draw the NHTSA's attention. But achieving truly autonomous driving increasingly seems like a Sisyphean task, one of constantly accounting for new, endless edge cases. Maybe it's time we put the kibosh on the whole thing and put humans back at the wheel. At least people get appreciably better at driving when you train them.

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